" Leocadia Cruzgrew grew up in Cosoleacaque, a little community in the southern state of Veracruz, Mexico, where opportunities were exclusively for men. "
Fifty years ago oilfields were discovered in the area mainly occupied by indigenous peoples.
Suddenly the industrialization of the zone risked all the tradition and historic knowledge of her people. Like all the women of her family, Aunt Cayita, as she is now called, learned the art of loom weaving.
"My mother used to tell me, 'Pay attention; this knowledge will stay with you and maybe would be helpful,'" she says. "Now I'm 72 and I keep weaving. This is my life."
Years of practice made her one of the best weavers of the region. Aunt Cayita decided to set up a workshop and employ a couple of the women from her town, which was mired in poverty.
Suddenly, many women from nearby towns began asking her to teach them. She did. In the past 30 years, Aunt Cayita has taught close to 1,300 women this art craft.
The mother of nine (eight of them are men) faced another challenge in the first in the early 90s: how to sell her products.
Aunt Cayita knew a loan officer who told her about microfinance and its potential benefits. Aunt Cayita's first loan was of about $150, which she invested in thread and fabric.
Her last outstanding loan was of about $2,000. Increasing the scale of her business gave her the opportunity to hire more people.
In her workshop now she has 15 employees (six of them are members of her family, and two are men). Her influence in her community were enough reasons for Mexican Government to award her with the "National Prize of Science of Arts" in 2006 for preserving the indigenous tradition of loom weaving.
"I used the money to build a bigger house, because the one I had wasn't enough for me and my family," she says smiling proudly. Furthermore, she has exported to China, Cuba and the U.S., and her work has been part of different exhibitions.
"I keep myself optimistic and I don't have any problem with my way of living. Weaving gives me strength, courage and a reason to continue," says Aunt Cayita, the woman who changed the role of females in the Cosoleacaque community, while her hands play with the thread.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011